WASHINGTON – Joseph Gordon-Levitt has a mild obsession with patterns. He sees them everywhere.
There are the necessary ones – the sun rises, the sun sets; we inhale, we exhale – and the helpful routines that give our days structure. But there are also detrimental patterns, and those are the kind that inspired Gordon-Levitts first foray into feature screenwriting and directing.
Don Jon follows a modern-day Don Juan, played by Gordon-Levitt, who spends plenty of time picking up ladies at bars but much prefers the mindless and emotion-free pleasures of pornography. He might call it a habit, but it looks an awful lot like addiction. Hes a connoisseur of sorts.
While Don Jon turns into a complex portrayal with a surprisingly sweet message, early chatter surrounding the movie focused mainly on the pornography element.
I had the script and somebody said, Oh, Joe Gordon-Levitt wrote this script and its about porn, and I was like, Ugh, OK, recalled actress Julianne Moore. She plays the off-kilter and straight-talking Esther, who becomes Jons unlikely friend. And I started reading it, and I looked up halfway through, and I said (to my husband), This isnt about porn. This is amazing. Really, its a movie about intimacy to me. I found it really surprising, really touching, very, very funny, very original and I was completely taken with it.
In some ways, that disconnect between how the movie has been perceived and the true nature of the film couldnt be more appropriate. While Jon does indeed have an addiction to pornography, his real problem is that he is a victim of artifice – he has fooled himself into believing the raunchy fantasy can be real, and true life can never live up.
The first kernel of an idea was trying to get at a story of how people treat each other more like things than like people and how media can play into that, Gordon-Levitt said. I think its something everybody does to everybody else. We sort of have a tendency to pigeonhole each other.
Some of these sentiments were no doubt inspired by Gordon-Levitts career path. The 32-year-old has worked in Hollywood most of his life and has denounced celebrity culture. On hitRECord, a Web-based collaborative production company Gordon-Levitt founded, he goes by the name Regular Joe.
The character he wrote for himself is not quite so humble.
I thought, well whos Don Juan today? And the first guy I thought of was that guy, you know, dis guy, Gordon-Levitt said, breaking into his characters New Jersey accent, with the gym body and the shiny hair, and it made me laugh.